Healthy Living Series: Part 2

FOOD!

We love food, don’t we? We could eat all day if we could. Food is good, period. So let’s talk about it.

Over the last few years, my husband and I have gotten more into eating “clean” foods (less processed, less sugary foods). We’re not saints though. We WILL grab something from a fast food place on occasion (mmm Sonic). But for the most part, my husband and I rarely eat fast food. And when we dine out, we try to seek out places that will serve the best food possible. What does that mean? Essentially, we try to choose places that don’t seem to rely on using a lot of processed food. This means we end up at more local places rather than chain restaurants. Living in the NYC area, it’s pretty easy to eat local. There are chains here (Applebee’s, Friday’s, etc) but they actually cost much more than what we’re used to in MI, so we tend to avoid them for that reason. But also, because the quality of food is just not there. {NOTE: if you’ve never been to NYC, avoid chains restaurants. Besides the fact that there are thousands of restaurants here to try out, the chains cost more. Meaning, you will pay $17 for a burger and fries at Friday’s. I’m not joking.}

I’m going to give a little peek into what we eat and why. And I’ll provide some links as well to give more insight. In a nutshell, over the past 3 or so years, I’ve watched several documentaries and read dozens of articles about nutrition and what it really means to eat healthy. I’ve learned about organic foods, what GMOs/non-GMOs are, what “clean” eating means and what a vegan lifestyle entails. I’ve read about being gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo and just about other type of diet you can name. As I got more into learning about fitness, I definitely learned more about food. Basically, if you’ve heard about a particular diet, I’ve read about it. But to be clear, I only research in-depth what I’m most interested in for myself. So, I do not know everything about everything. My main goal has been to understand where our food comes from, and how it gets from a farm to our table. I’ll list the documentaries I’ve watched below that provided me with this information and more.

What do I buy at the store?

Meat – Even after watching all the documentaries about how animals (chickens, cows, pigs) are treated for slaughter, I do still eat meat. We try to consume less of it, but we do still eat it. I’m always real with you guys, so I’ll be honest and say that I love meat! And as of now, I have no plans to give that up (my husband is definitely not giving it up either *lol*). However, when I shop, I try to buy the best meat possible, meaning organic, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, turkey, or pork. Sometimes, I have to go for non-organic because yes, it gets expensive. But I try to buy “natural” (that’s a very deceptive term, read about it) meat that has no antibiotics.

Fruit & Veggies – Using the “Dirty Dozen” list and this more comprehensive list, I can now buy organic fruits and veggies without breaking the bank. These lists give you the details about what fruits and veggies have the highest and lowest amounts of pesticide residue. The basic rule of thumb here is, if the fruit or veggie has a thinner skin, chances are there will be more pesticides used on it, so try to buy those items organic. For thicker skinned produce, where you’d typically peel the item, it’s a bit safer to buy those regular. [Shout out to my friend Art for teaching me this years ago.] If you can buy everything organic, that’s great! But for many people, that’s a challenge. I say, do what you can! And, if there’s any particular fruit and/or veggie that you eat frequently, I say try to buy those organic.

Canned veggies – While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them, I typically buy fresh or frozen.

[Tip: There are some organic brands that have frozen fruits and veggies, so check out the freezer section! For example, fresh organic strawberries are RIDICULOUSLY expensive. If you can pay $5.99/8 oz container of fresh organic strawberries, go for it! Instead, I buy from the freezer section. I can typically get a 10oz bag of frozen organic strawberries for $3.99 (brand: Cascadian Farms). I also make a lot of smoothies, so buying frozen fruit is typically what I go for anyway. But if I want something fresh, I try to go for the thicker skinned fruits…bananas, mangoes, etc.]

Everything else: 

Eggs – Organic. I eat eggs daily, so I look for eggs that come from free-roaming chickens. I used to buy cage-free until I saw a documentary about what cage-free can mean to some farmers. Sometimes, I still buy cage-free if I can’t find free-roaming.

Pasta – Soooo, I’m not a big pasta eater. *gasp* I know! Yeah, I’m not a big fan of pasta. I don’t know why, it’s just … blah to me. BUT, my husband eats it and therefore, I do buy it. I don’t buy organic. I DO buy other types of pasta like brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, spinach pasta, etc. I have bought whole wheat pasta, but I just don’t like it. I’ve tried different brands, but no can do. So I don’t buy whole wheat or whole grain, but try to buy other versions of pasta. Explore your pasta aisle if you like pasta, there’s lots to choose from these days. And most of these versions still have tons of carbs, so if you’re watching your carbs, check your labels.

Pasta sauce – I don’t buy jarred sauce any more. I make my own. YES! It is incredibly easy, or at least, I make mine in a very easy way. So, along with not really caring for pasta, I’m not big on tomato sauces. I know! I don’t like the heaviness of jarred pasta sauces. Therefore, when I make my own, I make it very light. I take one large beefsteak tomato (usually organic), dice it up, throw it in the pot. Take a can of tomato paste (organic), add that into the pot. Take a cup of water, add it to the pot. Stir it all together and put it on medium-high heat until it starts boiling. While it’s coming to a boil, I add my seasonings. Whatever you want…onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, etc, etc. As soon as it comes to a boil, I turn it down and simmer it for about 10-15 minutes. Done. It’s SO easy. And sometimes I cheat and use canned diced tomatoes (organic). If I have more time, sometimes I get fancy and sauté onions, garlic and mushrooms first. Then add those in to the tomatoes/tomato paste/water mixture. So good and tastes WAY better than the jar because it’s fresh and there’s LESS sugar!!! (NOTE: there is a little sugar from the canned tomato paste, but usually it’s about 3 grams.)

[Tip: Nowadays, they have these fancy kitchen gadgets that you can use to make “pasta” out of veggies like zucchini, carrots, squash, etc. This is a great choice if you’re trying to eat more veggies, but love pasta.]

Beans – I don’t buy these organic. I do buy canned beans, but have also bought dried beans. I typically like canned because it’s easier. Dried beans require me to think ahead because they need to be soaked (usually) overnight. I just never think ahead enough to use them, so I prefer canned.

Bread – I usually buy organic because these breads tend to be made with the best ingredients.

[Note: Next time you’re buying bread, read the label. Name brand breads (Pepperidge Farms, Arnolds, Wonder Bread, etc) have TONS of chemicals in them!! I’m not trying to tell you guys what to do, but seriously, pick up a loaf of an organic brand. Or hell, buy from a bakery. I’ll never buy popular name brand bread again. There is such a huge difference in the taste and quality.]

Cereal / Oatmeal – I don’t look for organic brands specifically, but I do buy a lot of Kashi cereals. I buy Quaker Oats (1-minute oats). I love oatmeal and eat it just about everyday.

Sauces/Condiments – I don’t buy any of these organic. For me, as long as there are little to zero chemicals/artificial ingredients in them, I don’t feel the need to buy organic.

Sweeteners – I buy organic or the best possible sweetener. Check out this article. I used this to help determine what type of sweetener to switch to from white sugar. I still buy white sugar, I just don’t use it often. I have bought, and would like to continue to buy, coconut sugar. It’s delicious and can be used as a 1:1 substitute for white sugar. Read more about it in the article. I also buy organic honey. When it comes to sweeteners, I’ve found tons of articles/blogs about the pros and cons of various sweeteners. Don’t look into the debate about agave and stevia. It’s exhausting!! At the end of the day, do what’s best for you and use them in moderation.

Snacks – I don’t specifically buy organic here, rather I look for snacks with the best ingredients (which usually happens to be organic or “natural” brands). If I read the label of any snack food and it has a ton of chemicals in it, I don’t buy it. For example, I buy ice cream made with milk, sugar, eggs and whatever the flavor may be (strawberries, dark chocolate, etc). With cookies, if the ingredients are the same ones I’d use to make them in my home, I’ll buy them. And with chips, we usually buy tortilla chips and on occasion, we buy potato chips that are made with just potatoes, sea salt and palm oil. I don’t get too picky because we buy snacks in moderation, meaning, we don’t always have snacks in the house. I know! How do we live like this!? It’s a lifestyle change, that’s all I can say. 🙂

I think that covers the major things we buy. In general, I don’t necessarily buy all organic, but I’d say we end up buying 50-60% of groceries specifically organic. Due to the cost, we have to pick and choose. I like to buy the foods we eat a lot of organic, otherwise, I look for the most natural/whole foods. It took us a few years to get to this point. We started slowly, only buying organic meat. Then I added in veggies and fruit. Finally, I shopped for other items if I felt strongly about something being organic.

Finally! Here are the documentaries I’ve watched:

Hungry for Change – [From IMDB] “Exposes shocking secrets the diet, weight loss and food industries don’t want you to know about deceptive strategies designed to keep you coming back for more. Find out what’s keeping you from having the body and health you deserve.”

Forks Over Knives – [From IMDB] “Examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.”

Food Matters – [From IMDB] – “Food Matter examines how the food we eat can help or hurt our health. Nutritionists, naturopaths, doctors, and journalists weigh in on topics organic food, food safety, raw foodism, and nutritional therapy.”

Food, Inc.-  [From IMDB] – “An unflattering look inside America’s corporate controlled food industry.” (This one… if this one doesn’t piss you off, then man…woooooo!)

Vegucated – [From IMDB] – “Vegucated is a guerrilla-style documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks and learn what it’s all about. They have no idea that so much more than steak is at stake and that the planet’s fate may fall on their plates. Lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover hidden sides of animal agriculture that make them wonder whether solutions offered in films like Food, Inc. go far enough. Before long, they find themselves risking everything to expose an industry they supported just weeks before. But can their convictions carry them through when times get tough? What about on family vacations fraught with skeptical step-dads, carnivorous cousins, and breakfast buffets? Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated showcases the rapid and at times comedic evolution of three people who are trying their darnedest to change in a culture that seems dead set against it.” (Great doc!!)

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – Click here for the summary from IMDB. It’s long, so I didn’t post it. This is the only one I haven’t watched. But I will one day.

Just like everything, I don’t take these docs as bond. While they really shed some a lot of light on the subject of food, how it’s processed, and what it does to the body, in the end, you have to decide for yourself what to do. Again, I’m the type that likes to hear all sides of a story, so for me, I wanted to learn why I should eat organic, why I should buy foods that are non-GMO (genetically modified organism), etc. I wanted to hear the pro side of things. I have read the con side, but honestly, after watching all of these things, the pro side wins (for me). I’m not one to be all, “Damn the government because they don’t care about what we eat!!”, BUT…mannn, the government doesn’t care what we eat. It’s really amazing to hear about how the government and the food industry work together. It’s pretty scary, in my opinion. But watch these and come to your own conclusions.

Now that I’ve crushed your hopes and dreams of eating tons of meat and gorging on snacks *lol* , have a great weekend!! 🙂

-t

 

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